My father likes to read the Sydney Morning Herald on line to keep up with the latest news from Australia. One of the attractions may be that from North America you can actually read tomorrow's paper.
In November 1999 he began forwarding items from a discussion taking place in the Column 8 section. Column 8 is a collection of humourous observations sent in by readers. In this case, the discussion dealt with Australia's well-known national song, Waltzing Matilda. I reproduce the discussion as it took place.
WE HAVE suggested that the jolly swagman who went Waltzing Matilda was named Andy...as in ''Andy sang as he watched, Andy waited till his billy boiled...'' (Column 8, October 6). Tony Winton, of Mosman, demurs: ''It's well known he was a Mexican, as in 'Juan's a jolly swagman...'.''
November 22, 1999
WRONG! Wrong! Wrong! says Robert Leong, of Cherrybrook. ''My great-grandfather's third cousin came to Australia to build the railroads and go gold prospecting, and all his descendants know that Wong's The Jolly Swagman...''
November 24, 1999
VISITING us from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Mrs L. Jackson has been interested in the claims on who was the jolly swagman (Column 8, Monday). She writes: ''I am surprised you don't know it was an English royal, travelling incognito, as in One's a Jolly Swagman.''
November 30, 1999
Note for non-Commonwealth readers: The members of the British royal family have a tendency to refer to themselves in the third person. For example, Prince Charles is always making statements like "One thinks that genetically modified food is dangerous" or "One thinks that modern architecture is a load of rubbish".
Swagman's relatives hit back
MR WESLEY BONE, of Mosman, would like us to stop publicising his namesake, Wes, the Jolly Jumbuck. "Hasn't he suffered enough?"
December 2, 1999
The swagman's brother
ASKS Peter Crowther, of Clovelly: ''Is there some family connection between Juan, The Jolly Swagman and Raul Britannia?''
December 4, 1999
MICHAEL Robinson, of San Jose, California, reports: ''My father has kept me up to date on your research concerning Juan the royal swagman, and Wes the jolly jumbuck. However, I have yet to hear anything about Wal. Hardly anybody in the story says anything without immediately pausing and requesting Wal, sing 'Matilda'.''
December 6, 1999
I jump into the action here. Actually, when I was a small child, I really did think that the swagman's name was "Wal". The chorus would thus be "Wal, sing Matilda". (My parents used to buy wine from a wine merchant by the name of Wal Cooper. I must have gotten him into the story somehow.) I might have even thought that Wal was a fan of Harry Belafonte, whose song Matilda was a big hit at one time.
Ian Taylor, of Randwick, says that back in the UK, his mother, Rosemary Taylor, of Croydon, Surrey, was watching the closing ceremony on TV with his three-year-old niece, Amy. "According to my mum, Amy thought the Bananas in Pyjamas were best - and that song about 'Waltzing the Builder' who waits for his beans to boil."
October 13, 2000
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